I don’t remember how old I was when it first happened. It was nothing I had planned, nothing I had even practiced. Suddenly, I was just…doing it. It was exhilarating. I remember feeling so free and happy. When it first started, I could never sustain it for very long. And I could never do it when it was light out. Something about the glaring visibility of the day made it impossible. I did try, but I always faltered, as if the sun took the power away from me.
But night. At night I soared. At night, the darkness cloaked me and made it possible for me to escape the chains that kept me grounded. It was like I was Peter Pan, soaring above the streets of London. Or Superman, speeding through the sky on the way to his next adventure.
I was so young the first time, maybe six or seven years old. And the memory is so vivid, it’s as if it happened yesterday. The night was crisp and the stars were sparkling all over the inky sky. Suddenly, I was in the air, soaring higher and higher. I looked down and saw the tiled roofs whisking by. I rose higher and higher, through white, fluffy clouds, emerging in a sky that was a deep blue-black. Onward I flew, to the second star on the right, never feeling so free as I did at that moment.
Over the years, I flew more, but there always seemed to be a necessity to it. An escape from someone or some place. An attempt to save someone. A need to be somewhere quickly. It rarely was the carefree flight of my younger days. The ease with which I took flight diminished as I grew older. It was more like a kryptonite-weakened Superman than an always spry Peter Pan. The running jumps didn’t always take me up, up, and away. Sometimes they took me up for a few seconds, then heavily down to the hard earth, knocking out my spirit and my breath.
A few flights have taken me high above the trees, over cities and mountains. Those are the flights that stay with me. When the power and the strength were with me, I could go higher and higher, faster and faster, just by thinking about it. I could hover over an area without losing altitude. I could go wherever I wanted, just by imagining my destination.
One night, I found myself over an old European village. The people below didn’t see my flying above them, looking for a place to come down. The cobblestone streets reflected the lights strung above the rooftops. As I came down, it felt like I had entered a Van Gogh painting. I walked the streets, stopping at shop windows, wondering if I’d be able to stay there as long as I liked, or if the village would disappear once the sun came up.
That was the last flight I remember. I seem unable to fly anymore, unable to break free from the gravity that holds me to the ground. My spirit is just as grounded as my body right now. The power of flight may return to me. I might find myself soaring when I least expect it. Each night, I think about flying, about returning to the sky where I can be alone, where I can feel the same freedom I did that first night. But I know that freedom is gone. That was the freedom of childhood. I have to find a different reason to fly, a different way to fly.
Each night before bed, I look at Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I close my eyes and hope to return to that scene, finding a new way to take flight and soar to greater heights.